Again looking for more interesting activities than skiing in poor spring snow cover whilst my daughter was in a ski programme, I decided to have another shot at The Twins and VE-023 during the bonus season. I activated both these last year and know it was a solid walk given the winter closure of Twins Track. Last year the activation was before any significant snow had fallen, so the ground was quite bare. This year, it was at the end of the season and so snow became a consideration (but as it turned out – minimal).
I was hoping to again drive as far as the locked gate where there is a convenient spot to park the car. I headed up the track crossing a couple of snow patches, but fairly quickly came to a significant stretch of deepish snow and a decent sized tree across the track. So I parked the car and continued on foot.
Not knowing quite what I’d find, I took snow shoes in case the snow cover was significant anywhere – turns out they stayed on my pack the whole trip 🙁
As you can see from the photo, DELWP will have a lot of work to do before the track re-opens for summer! I counted more than 20 trees across the road just to the base of The Twins.
The snow was very minimal with only the south facing slopes having any cover at all. Like last visit, I opted for the short but steep route to the top of the Twins on the way in and the longer route on the return. The weather was quite cold (around zero degrees), but I was soon stripped down to just a thermal top with the exertion of the steep climb. Once I reached the summit (after many rest breaks), I quickly layered up due to a moderate cold wind.
The effect of sun on the mountains in Spring is very noticeable standing on the summit where there was continuous snow cover on the south side of the mount and none at all on the north.
The peak itself was clear of snow and I set up with the squidpole attached to the summit marker pole. As usual, I set up my trapped EFHW which covers 40m – 15m bands. I needed the bothy bag to keep warm for the activation, so found a flat rock to sit on and covered myself and the equipment with it.
Getting on the air I was hoping for a repeat of the previous days 35 contacts from VK3/VG-030, but was to be sorely disappointed. Close-in propagation on 40m was non-existent. After spotting, I managed to work two VK5s and a VK2 and then nothing on 40m. I switched to 20m, spotted and called fruitlessly. After 20 mins of no response on either 40m or 20m, I decided to give 80m a try. I pulled out the extension for my antenna and re-set it to cover 80m. A spot and a call picked up my 4th contact with Peter VK3PF who could only hear me 44. So I had qualified it, but it had taken nearly an hour.
I packed up and walked down to the saddle between the Twins and VE-023 and had lunch there. I was hoping to do VK3/VE-023 as well as it is very close, however the extra walking distance and the extra time it had taken to do the first activation meant that I was rapidly running out of time as I had to be back at Hotham village by 3:00 to pick up my daughter. Checking the time, I decided I would be very late if I attempted the 2nd summit, so made the conservative decision to head back.
This time I followed Twins track back to the car passing a couple of significant cascades from the snow melt. It is a long but easy walk.
It is interesting to compare my performance over the steep section across the two activations of this summit:
Looks like I might be a bit fitter this year – very good!
Here’s the profile and track for reference:
The poor propagation looks set to continue and so I think I will look at taking an amplifier with me where possible in the future! I also need to brush up my CW and make sure I have a paddle with me for future activations.
Another good day in the mountains.